A Stronger Transportation Infrastructure - Metropolitan Planning Council

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A Stronger Transportation Infrastructure

Summary

Since transportation capital is largely funded at the state level, the city needs to be an advocate for sufficient, sustainable funding in the Illinois General Assembly, especially for transit. Plain and simple: investing in transit is good for our economy and results in economic growth. Chicago-region studies show that for every dollar invested in transit yields between $1.21-$3 in economic returns, and has significant benefits to residents, employers and communities including more jobs, less traffic, higher property values, and improved air quality to name a few.

Currently, 31 percent of the Regional Transportation Authority’s transit system is beyond its useful life. We need sufficient, sustainable funding to bring our mature transit system into a state of good repair and to expand our network so transit remains an attractive choice in Chicago.

Recommendation: Be a vocal and active advocate for sustainable transportation funding at the state level and help ensure a minimum of 30 percent of funds is allocated to transit. Illinois also needs a set of policies to help ensure that we are using data and transparent processes to make our investments. Additionally, the Mayor can play a major role in cultivating large and small employers to vocally support new funding for transit.  

Timeline

100 Day Actions
  • Advocate in Springfield for legislators to advance sustainable funding for multimodal transportation during the 2019 legislative session.

Additional Considerations

Why the time is right

Illinois needs to increase sustainable revenue for transportation to stay competitive and to return to economic growth, and we need funding sources that will increase on an annual basis so that the system can be maintained and adapted to changing needs. 

  • The historic Illinois approach of infrequent bonding programs does not work as a predictable strategy.
    • An infusion of funds once a decade (or less) means that maintenance and planning efforts are highly uneven, resulting in poor transportation outcomes for residents and businesses.
    • Illinois cannot afford to accrue more debt, especially from sources that fail to generate expected revenues. Illinois capital bills have sometimes been tied to revenue from many non-transportation revenue sources.  For the 2009 capital bill, the promised funds never fully materialized[1].
  • More than 30 states have enacted sustainable transportation revenue approaches since 2012[2].  Illinois is not keeping up with its peers. Every Midwest state has increased sustainable transportation funding in the last few years except Illinois.
  • Revenue sources must be indexed to inflation so that they keep up with demands to maintain the system.
  • Increased transportation investments should flow from fees charged to users who benefit from the transportation system, such as motor fuel tax increases. The Illinois motor fuel tax has not been increased since 1990 and is not indexed to inflation, resulting in severely reduced purchasing power.

It is critical that any legislation include at least 30 percent of new transportation funding for transit given the importance of transit to the quality of life for Chicago residents, and the strong relationship between transit and the economy (see MPC’s Transit Means Business report).  The transit system is in dire need of capital investment to continue to operate reliably and safely.

What it will take

The city needs to influence decision makers at the state level so they develop strong sustainable, multimodal transportation funding legislation.  A range of stakeholders need to be involved that support transit, including the business community that relies on transit to access talent, labor groups representing workers, the transportation community and the environmental community. 

Alignment with other Initiatives and Priorities of City or Partners

It is critical that the legislation have a high share of funding dedicated to transit because of its paramount role in the economic health of this region and the quality of life of residents:

  • The City of Chicago’s Vision Zero effort seeks to eliminate injuries and fatalities from traffic crashes.  Metro areas with higher public transportation use have lower traffic fatality rates.
  • The Chicago Department of Health’s Healthy Chicago 2.0 identifies active transportation as a key solution for increasing regional health. Objectives include increasing those who bike, walk, and take public transit to work.

[1] https://features.propublica.org/the-bad-bet/how-illinois-bet-on-video-gambling-and-lost

[2] http://t4america.org/maps-tools/state-transportation-funding  

This page can be found online at http://www.metroplanning.org/multimedia/publication/907

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616 info@metroplanning.org

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